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Documentary covers Federation’s contribution to Aboriginal education

May 21, 2018

It was an idea hatched at an Aboriginal Friday Night Forum in 2015, a documentary tracing the stories of members who set the way for today’s Aboriginal teachers and the contribution of Federation’s long campaign to uphold the rights of our First Peoples and advance the cause of Aboriginal education.

Two lifelong unionists and comrades, Uncle Kevin Tory and Paddy Gorman, were talking with Federation’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd about the value of capturing and sharing the stories and history to present to all present and future members relating Federation’s involvement in Aboriginal education over the past 100 years.

The idea bore fruit and in 2016 — after discussions with Federation General Secretary John Dixon and the Education Funding Committee — Federation committed to a documentary film about the history of Aboriginal Education in NSW, and the contributions made by Federation.

The product naa muru gurung (to see a path for children) premiered at this month’s Aboriginal Members Conference.

It champions the many warriors, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Federation members past and present, who campaigned, supported and advocated for Aboriginal education, the rights of children, and inclusion of our First Peoples in the early years of our public education system.

The documentary was made by Matilda Films, which produced the award winning Blood on the Coal — The Queensland Miners’ Story and is recognised as a leading creator, producer and promoter of original Australian screen content.

The direction team of Piers Grove, Xanon Murphy and Gorman interviewed Indigenous activists who have advocated for Aboriginal education over many decades.

Grove is a Logie-nominated TV producer who has produced more than 80 hours of original content for the ABC, Nine, Foxtel and SBS. He is deputy of the Australian Republican Movement and is also the publisher of the “deadly serious” regional newspaper, The Betoota Advocate.

“Making this documentary has been a privileged opportunity to hear and capture the stories of so many amazing Australians,” Grove said. “The tremendous progress made is a credit to the dedication of so many people over such a long time.

“While there’s a long way to go, the story gives so much reason to be optimistic and excited about the futures of our Indigenous kids in NSW.”

Gorman is an international award-winning documentary film-maker, writer and journalist.

As executive producer and writer, his last two films Last Stand at Nymboida and Blood on the Coal have won a combined 30 international film awards.

Murphy has a diverse portfolio of work in film, television, events and theatre, and was the series producer for ABC2’s daily comedy news show The Roast. He has produced feature documentaries including Decadence: Decline of the Western World, Blood On The Coal and the short film My Minds Own Melody, with Silverchair’s Daniel Johns and Josh Wakley.

Federation’s social justice lineage is on show, affirming its stance on Aboriginal education down the years.

In 1958, Federation called for an end to segregation. Three years later, Federation conducted a survey of conditions in the state’s Aboriginal schools and from its findings mounted a campaign improve conditions for unqualified lay teachers who were given substandard training that undermined their pupils’ learning prospects.

It was common for Aboriginal students to be excluded from any NSW school if non-Aboriginal parents demanded their expulsion.

Well into the 1960s, schools in NSW were segregated — some stubbornly clinging to segregation even after this was outlawed — and Aboriginal children were only required to be educated to be domestics and farm labourers, further entrenching disadvantage.

“We still have a long way to go to make up for the loss to our many, many children who have slipped through the public education system,” Ms Emzin-Boyd said. “Federation will continue its campaigning; striving through all elements of identity in knowledge, support, unity, advocacy, strength, in allowing every one of our Children the right to success and to be the best they can be.”

Screenings of naa muru gurung are scheduled for the end of June and trailer will be available soon at www.nswtf.org.au. A schedule of screenings, including regional areas, is being drafted at the time of publication.

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